Martin Boyle hopes to hit top form for Hibs in the coming weeks as he also bids to secure his place in the Australia squad for the Asia Cup in January.
The Easter Road attacker made his debut for the Socceroos as a substitute in a friendly against South Korea earlier this month and then marked his first start by scoring twice and providing an assist in a 3-0 victory over Lebanon.
Boyle, who is eligible to play for Australia by virtue of the fact his father was born in Sydney, now hopes to build on a dream start to his international career by earning a call-up for the squad that will try and defend the Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
The tournament, which is the second-oldest continental competition in the world after Copa America, runs from January 5 to February 1.
That means Boyle and fellow Socceroos Jamie Maclaren and Mark Milligan could miss Hibs’ Scottish Cup tie against Elgin City on January 19, as well as their first three Premiership matches after the split, against Motherwell, St Mirren and Aberdeen, depending how Australia – who won the competition in 2015 – progress.
“I need to do the business this month and ensure I’m in the squad,” said Boyle, speaking at Hibs’ annual golf day at Archerfield.
“I’m sure everyone will be battling for a place in the squad. It’s a very talented side. The expectations are really high so come the Asia Cup, the expectation will be that we need to raise it even further and hopefully go on and win back-to-back titles. The majority of the players are playing for top clubs, some of them in the Champions League, so even when I train with them I need to raise my expectations and be at it in every session and every game, and I feel like I’ve done that.”
Boyle was left humbled after his impressive exploits against Lebanon when Australia legend Tim Cahill, who was about to play his final game for the national team, gave a speech welcoming the Aberdonian into the Socceroos fold and presented him with a signed jersey.
“Tim was only there for the last few days of the camp but it was amazing to be around him,” said Boyle. “The way he carries himself and looks after his body – he is a top professional. He is someone who has played at the highest level and scored at World Cups. So for him to present me with that shirt in front of the squad was an unbelievable feeling. It doesn’t come much better.
“I didn’t know what to do with myself! I thought he was just talking about himself and his career, then he turned to me and told me I was part of the family and the boys would look after me. He told me it would be the best days of my life and I wouldn’t regret it. On the video it looks like I’m not reacting, but I’m trying to let it sink it, that someone like Tim Cahill was saying those kind things about me.
“There were things he mentioned in his speech that even I didn’t know about him. I didn’t realise he was Samoan and only made his Australia debut at 25. There are a couple of similarities there. Graham Arnold (the manager) asked me if I wanted his number four jersey ...I said ‘no, you’re alright’. That’s pressure! However, that was nice of him to say. I wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the faith he has shown in me.”
Boyle revealed that his dad Graeme has been touched by the sight of his son representing the country of his birth. “He almost shed a tear,” said the Hibs player. “He was staying up all night to watch the games. When I phoned him after the games, I’ve never heard him speechless before in his life. He was damn proud. When I came home last week, he came down to visit and I gave him my shirt. He’s going to get it framed. I’ve done the family proud and he’s buzzing.”